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Mr. Amess: To ask the Prime Minister if he will list the occasions on which he has visited Australia in an official capacity since 1997; what the purpose of the visit was in each case; what the (a) date, (b) time, (c) location and (d) duration was of each meeting held during each visit; and if he will make a statement. 
The Prime Minister: Since 1999 the Government have published an annual list of all visits overseas undertaken by Cabinet Ministers costing £500 or more during each financial year. Copies of these lists are available in the Library of the House. Information on the number of officials accompanying Ministers on overseas visits is included in the list. All Ministers' travel arrangements are in accordance with the arrangements for official travel set out in chapter 10 of the ministerial code, and the accompanying guidance document, Travel by Ministers". Information for the year 200506 will be published as soon as it is ready.
Mr. Amess: To ask the Prime Minister if he will list the (a) grade and (b) duties of each official accompanying him on overseas visits since May 1997; and what the costs associated with such staff were in each case. 
The Prime Minister: Since 1999 the Government have published an annual list of all visits overseas undertaken by Cabinet Ministers costing £500 or more during each financial year. Copies of these lists are available in the Library of the House. Information on the number of officials accompanying Ministers on overseas visits is included in the list. All Ministers' travel arrangements are in accordance with the arrangements for official travel set out in chapter 10 of the ministerial code, and the accompanying guidance document, Travel by Ministers".
Mr. Hollobone: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what discussions his Department's growth areas directorate has had with Anglian Water on the effective implementation of water efficiency measures in new houses. 
Officials from the growth areas division in this Department met senior officials from Anglian Water in London on 27 July 2005. At this meeting, Anglian Water outlined their approach to meeting the demand for its services in the light of proposals for housing growth within its area. My officials were invited to a further meeting with Anglian Water at their headquarters in Huntingdon on 19 September 2005, where the water company provided further details of its plans for meeting increased demand due to housing growth. Water efficiency measures in new homes was raised in the course of these discussions.
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Yvette Cooper: One local authority, Hartlepool borough council, has applied to English Partnerships for funding through the Land Stabilisation Programme to investigate the stability of anhydrite mines.
Yvette Cooper [holding answer 19 April 2006]: The consideration of impacts on local biodiversity of new house building are matters that should be addressed by regional planning bodies and local planning authorities when preparing regional spatial strategies and local development documents. In preparing these plans, they must have regard to national planning policies set out in Planning Policy Statement 9 (PPS9) Biodiversity and Geological Conservation". PPS9 indicates that plan policies should aim to maintain and enhance, restore or add to biodiversity interests and recognises that it is possible to build in beneficial biodiversity features as part of the design of new developments. PPS9 is also supported by a recently published good practice guide which includes practical examples of how planning authorities can plan positively for biodiversity.
Mr. Steen: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister pursuant to the answer of 16 January 2006, Official Report, column 959W, on the Brixham council proposal, what steps he has taken to ensure that a Brixham town council will be established on 1 April 2007; and what steps remain to be taken in order for the council to be operative on that date. 
Mr. Woolas: Officials in the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister are considering the recommendation of Torbay council to establish a Brixham town council and they expect to submit this proposal to Ministers for a decision within the next three weeks.
For the town council to be established on 1 April 2007 the Electoral Commission, who are responsible for electoral arrangements, would need to make their order for the electoral arrangements of the town council in time for elections in May 2007.
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John Mann: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what guidance has been issued to local authorities on means testing for disabled facilities in council properties that are recommended and approved by a social services occupational therapist; and when this was issued. 
Yvette Cooper: The disabled facilities grant (DFG) programme, which is the responsibility of my Department and administered by local authorities, is the principal means by which Government financial support is made available to help with housing adaptations for disabled people. The grant is a mandatory entitlement for eligible disabled people and applies to all housing tenures including council properties. The grant is subject to a means test and this is set out in legislation which is notified to all local authorities.
In order for the local authority to assess the needs of a DFG applicant an occupational therapist from the social services is often consulted but any advice and recommendation they give would not alter the requirement for the grant to be means tested.
Local authorities have other powers to provide housing adaptations for disabled people but these are discretionary. Many local authorities use these other powers to provide adaptations to their own stock and in this case there would be no necessity to apply a means test.
My Department, jointly with the Department of Health and the Department for Education and Skills issued, in November 2004, a Good Practice Guide entitled 'Delivering housing adaptations for disabled people'. This emphasised the need for local authorities to have a housing adaptations policy which offered the same level of service quality for all tenures with the rights set out in the DFG legislation as at least a minimum standard.
Mr. Austin Mitchell: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister how much was paid in rent into each council housing revenue account in (a) 200203, (b) 200304 and (c) 200506; how much in each year was spent on (i) council administration, (ii) housing repairs and (iii)tenant services; and what the total surplus made available to his Department was in each year. 
Yvette Cooper: A table showing rental income and expenditure on council housing maintenance for 200203 and 200304 has been made available in the Library of the House. The figures are supplied by local authorities and are unaudited (figures are not yet available for 200506).
Expenditure on council administration is a general management function funded through the general fund. The HRA is a ring-fenced account within the general fund; that ring fence prevents the transfer of housing resources for other purposes such as general administration.
In 200203 and 200304 the subsidy system did not capture and redistribute surpluses; housing element entitlement was calculated instead as a net amount against rent rebate element entitlement, which was accounted for in the HRA prior to 31 March 2004.
Some authorities are in surplus and others are in deficit, in addition to moving surpluses to where they are needed most, the Government also provides additional net subsidy of around £200 million each year. The forecast for 200506 is for approximately that amount and forecasts for future years are similar.
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